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Labour

Arrest me if you can, Wabba dares el-Rufai

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 FG wades into NLC/Kaduna face-off
• Governor sacks Kaduna University lecturers, nurses
• TUC, NUPENG put members on red alert for a national shutdown
• Electricity workers consider shutting power installation nationwide
• APC governors, Shehu Sani, SERAP, others urge el-Rufai to resolve the dispute
The Federal Government, yesterday, sued for peace in the industrial dispute and picketing in Kaduna State by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), which has crippled economic activities in Kaduna. The government appealed to the parties to return to dialogue to end the industrial dispute.

Labour’s five-day warning strike to protest the sack of workers by Governor Nasir el-Rufai entered its second day yesterday with no end in sight.

Labour and Employment Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, appealed to El-Rufai, NLC President Ayuba Wabba, as well as President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Quadri Olaleye, to immediately cease-fire.

The minister in a statement issued by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Charles Akpan, said: “We are not unaware of what is going on in Kaduna. It is a labour issue, which has snowballed into a national strike. We hope and pray the state governor not escalate matters to such a level where it becomes uncontrollable. We also appeal to the leaders of the labour unions to step down the action to make way for discussion.”

The minister also appealed to all workers on essential duties, including doctors and nurses, not to join the strike.

EL-RUFAI yesterday fired Kaduna State University’s lecturers who joined the strike. A statement by his spokesman, Muyiwa Adekeye, said any academic staff of KASU that does not report for work will be dismissed.

It ordered the management to submit a copy of the attendance register for all categories of staff daily to the Secretary to the State Government and the Commissioner of Education. Also, all Ministries, Department and Agencies must tender daily copies of the attendance register to the Head of Service.

The El-Rufai administration vowed to reform and right-size the public service to meet the needs and resources of the state even if the strike continues indefinitely.

Organised labour, yesterday, dared the governor despite threats made to the NLC President and other members of the union. The labour leader also dared el-Rufai to come and arrest him after he was declared wanted by the governor.

“It is not about me. We are here and waiting for them,” the NLC President said in a telephone chat moments after el-Rufai declared him wanted for economic sabotage.

El-Rufai, in a tweet on Tuesday, said: “Ayuba Wabba & others of @NLCHeadquarters declared wanted for economic sabotage and attacks on public infrastructure under Miscellaneous Offences Act. Anyone that knows where he is hiding should send a message to @MOJKaduna. KDSG. There will be a handsome reward!”

In another tweet, he said: “The reform of the size, cost and quality of over-bloated, inefficient and barely educated public service is at stake here. We will neither retreat nor concede to any thoughtless and corrupt political hacks ever!”

THE Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) might shut down all power installations nationwide tomorrow (Thursday) night over the industrial crisis rocking Kaduna. General Secretary of NUEE, Joe Ajaero, said though there has been no electricity in Kaduna since Sunday, the blackout is likely going to be extended to the whole country if the governor insists on the planned mass sack of workers in the state.

This follows the directive of the NLC, which said the warning strike will be extended to the whole country if the governor does not halt the mass sack by the end of this Friday. Ajaero insisted that the organised labour would perform its function of protecting the interests of the working people.

MEANWHILE, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has called on the Federal Government to immediately call el-Rufai to order before his arrogance and power-drunk ego push the situation into the calamitous end as he has been doing in all issues relating to human life and wellbeing.

NUPENG warned that if any harm is inflicted on any of the members of organised labour, the leadership of the union would not hesitate to call on its members across the nation for a total shutdown of services in the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry.

A lawyer on labour matters, Paul Omoijiade, said the governor was displaying his limitations. He said the issue of industrial conflict was not within the ambit of the police but should be handled within the trade dispute Act.

“If the NLC president is arrested, it can result to the industrial crisis. The unions are enough to bring the state to a halt. El-Rufai needs to bring his thinking cap and go to the negotiation table,” he said.

Also, the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) has advised the Kaduna governor to resolve the dispute with labour leaders amicably. Chairman of the Forum, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, said: “Noting all the challenges facing all our states, especially given dwindling revenue, we appeal to all patriotic Nigerians, including the NLC, to demonstrate more commitment toward engaging governments at all levels to address problems.”

“This is not the time for muscle-flexing. Nigerians are already overstretched with many challenges. At this critical point of our democratic journey, there cannot be limits to engagement between all governments and citizens. We appeal to both the State Government and NLC to return to the negotiating table.”

A staunch critic of the governor, Senator Shehu Sani yesterday lamented the use of armed thugs to disrupt workers peaceful protest in Kaduna, saying the action stands unreservedly condemnable. He recalled that the ruling party had enjoyed the freedom and rights to protest when they were in opposition, advising the All Progressives Congress (APC) to be tolerant of dissent and criticism.

Likewise, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged the Kaduna governor, to immediately end the growing crackdown on workers and protesters in his state.

In a statement signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said El-Rufai and Kaduna authorities must end the harassment and intimidation of NLC leaders and withdraw the illegal statement declaring Wabba and other NLC leaders ‘wanted’.

(The Guardian)

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Labour

Unemployment: FG to launch labour statistics system – Ngige

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Ngige (file photo)

As part of efforts to address the rising unemployment in the country, the federal government has announced plans to develop a labour statistics system where unemployed Nigerians at home and abroad can apply for available jobs.

Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige disclosed this in Abuja on Tuesday during a media parley with labour reporters at his office.Ngige made reference to the US Department of Labour which publishes labour data, which are essential statistics for addressing unemployment.

“But over time that we have been here, it is not funded. You don’t also blame them. Everybody wants to build bridges and airports and go. But they forget that with labour statistics and matching, you can fight unemployment. With that, you know who is where at any given time. And people abroad, especially those with specialities, who want to come back, can enter that system to know where to apply to for jobs,” Ngige said.

Ngige promised that the system would be set up at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment within the next month or two in preparation for its official introduction in two months.

He recalled that his ministry earlier established a labour exchange system for merging and cross-matching labour supply and demand in the country.

“In our electronic labour exchange system, both people who are looking for work and recruiters can enter the system where we merge and match them. We do what is called cross-matching and people are gainfully employed. This is the facilitation of employment.”
Speaking further, Ngige said his ministry has gotten involved in some international projects with foreign partners, which Nigeria has not hitherto been doing, adding that for the first time, the American Government was putting up a grant for women and children in Nigeria and Liberia.

“For children, they are doing that to stop child labour. You know that child labour is a kind of poverty. People who ask their children to go to mines are looking for money from those miners. It is the same thing with hawking. Children are on the streets hawking while others are in school. They are in the streets hawking to make ends meet. The same goes for cocoa plantations.

“We are fighting child labour. The American government has agreed to assist us. We have two programmes. One is for $5 million and another one for $ 4 million is specific to Nigeria for areas where granite, columbites and others, are mined. We have not been loud in announcing them because we don’t want the American Government to withdraw. When the programmes take off, we can announce.”

According to the minister, a Nigerian implementer has been appointed for the programmes while ILO will be rendering technical assistance.

While applauding the ILO for being up and doing in the area of technical assistance, he urged the organisation to sustain the momentum.
He said this ministry has finished the validation of new laws and sent the bills to the National Assembly for legislation and passage, among them, the upgrade of the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) to a full-fledged commission.

“We are hopeful to get the National Assembly to pass the bills before the end of February.”
The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Ms Daju Kachollom, as well as directors and other unit leaders in charge of several departments, were also present at the media discussion.

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Education

Nasarawa State University to Pull Out of ASUU Strike, says Governor Sule

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Worried by the negative effects of the ongoing Industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Nasarawa state governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, has said that Nasarawa state university Keffi (NSUK) is set to pull out from the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) after the state government agreed to shoulder the responsibility for the payment of salaries of the staff of the university.

Breifing members of the state executive council, at the fifth state executive council meeting, in Nasarawa on Wednesday, the state government agreed to takeover the payment of salaries at NSUK, thereby meeting one of the key demands by the local chapter of the ASUU.

“One of the conditions they gave to us, the most important condition, is to ensure that we take over the full payment of salaries of all the staff, so that they don’t have to use their IGR.

“As far as we are concerned, we looked at our finances and we strongly believe that, based on the cashflow we have available to us and also because of the importance we attach to education, that we should be able to start that from this month.

“That is what we are looking forward to do. We are also hoping they will compliment by the moment we start the payment hopefully by Thursday or Friday, then we are hoping to see them also returning to their classes,” he stated.

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Economy

NSITF Clears theAir on N17.158 Billion Missing Vouchers

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The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) has assured Nigerians that the 2018 Audit Report by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation which raised 50 queries on misappropriation of N17.158 billion has nothing to do with the current management which came into office on June 1, 2021.

A press statement signed by the fund’s General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Ijeoma Okoronkwo, said, “Though the current probe by the  Senate Committee on Public Accounts is in exercise of its statutory oversight functions, it is overly important to inform the general public that what is under investigation are not new infractions but a cumulative financial violations under the management that ran the agency between 2012 and 2017.

“These infractions are not new. They have in fact been the subject of a probe  since the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation first raised the red flag in 2015. We make it clear therefore, that the negative trails of these breaches, have nothing to do with the present management beyond assisting the Senate Committee to carry out its oversight functions knowing full well that government is a continuum.

“On record, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has probed and taken the former Chairman of the Board and  five other senior officials, including the Managing Director and three Directors to court over some of the issues. Huge sums of money as well as property were also recovered, while some of the indicted staff members were equally removed from office.

“Indeed, when the Senate Committee initiated this current probe, the Managing Director, Dr Michael Akabogu, set up an internal committee to retrieve from First Bank and Skye Bank, respectively detailed transactions involving the fund under the period in question. The documents were subsequently submitted to the Senate Committee.

“However, when the Senate Committee further called for the vouchers backing up the transactions, Dr Akabogu requested that the former Managing Directors under whose tenures the transactions were made, be invited to provide further answers especially with regards to the vouchers.

“The current management is not in possession of the vouchers and hence informed the Senate Committee that the contents of the container in the premises of the fund where the former Managing Directors allegedly left the vouchers have succumbed to the elements. And that this can be substantiated from memos, hitherto written by the fund’s General Services Department on the state of the facility in question.

“This statement has become necessary to forestall further wrong finger-pointing and mischief in a section of the media directed at the current management of the NSITF which has charted a new course with strategic reforms, strongly anchored on transparency and already producing positive results.”

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